Bite-Size Chunks of Wisdom

June 2018

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It’s a time of eroding trust in big business, government, and media, as reported by the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer. The average trust in search engines and social media platforms has dropped. Even peers (i.e., “a person like yourself”), once touted as the most credible source of information, have declined considerably.

The 2018 study conducted by Edelman demonstrates that the level of trust and believability in content presented on various platforms is changing as well:

  • 51% trust in personal experiences over data (49%)
  • 59% trust in video over words (41%)
  • 65% trust in a spontaneous speaker over a rehearsed speaker (35%)
  • 63% believe a company’s social media over the company’s advertising (37%)

Despite that, buyers search for trust and reliability continues.

Dwindling Trust Impacts Consumer Buying

The average consumer is exposed to 4,000 – 10,000 brand messages each and every day. Is it any wonder trust is waning? As consumers wade through the inundation of value propositions, information overload, and diminished trust is extending the sales cycle by 22%.

Buyers don’t know who or what to believe anymore.

“A good reputation may get me to try a product – but unless I come to trust
the company behind the product I will soon stop buying it, regardless of its reputation.”

That’s an incredibly profound statement to which 63% of all Edelman study participants agree.

Given the myriad of brand messages, diminishing levels of trust, and the wide range of vendors available, a potential client can easily veer off course on their path to buying your product or service. Given the growing trends, it’s worth taking the time to improve your online and offline trust.

Raising Your Small Business Trust Barometer

The process of client acquisition is rarely a short, straight line. Prospective clients pass through various stages of assurance and trust-building when interacting with your business. Each stage allows your business to develop trust — to move a doubtful, discriminating, prospective buyer to a satisfied client.

When implemented successfully, each succeeding stage heightens trust and establishes the credibility you need to sustain long-lasting relationships.

The nine steps to building trust moves your consumer along the trust continuum. (Although the originator of these powerful nine stages is unknown, we’d like to give a big “shout out” to recognize their contribution to building trust online and offline.)

A consumer moves from….

Step 1. Unaware to aware when they view your website, receive a forwarded email from a friend, or read a story about you or your business on social media.

Step 2. Aware to curious when they are touched or affected by the title or content of something you provide.

Step 3. Curious to interested when they discover something you provide that might help them solve a problem.

Step 4. Interested to believing when they begin to deem that your business is legitimate.

Step 5. Believing to wanting when they see what you are offering and want to learn more about your product or service. 

Step 6. Wanting to in-motion when they respond to an offer and reply by phone, email, or social media message. This is a very BIG step.

Step 7. In-motion to buyer when they believe and trust you and your business, want the product or service you provide, and begin to pay you.

Step 8. Buyer to satisfied customer when they are happy with the product or service you provide and their trust in you is rewarded.

Step 9. Satisfied customer to advocate when a the service and benefits continually exceed their expectations. S/he then begins to refer you to others.

Trust is a forward-looking metric and one of the most valuable business strategies for any business to undertake. By systematically building awareness, trust, and confidence across the stages of trust development, you can solidify your business network immediately using this little-known business strategy.

If there is one objective shared by almost every small business owner, it would be the capability to scale their small business. Scaling, unlike growth, allows you to increase your revenue substantially. Minus the addition of significant costs, profits are greatly enhanced.

Growth, in comparison, means adding resources or infrastructure to handle greater demand. A growth in revenue is generally accompanied by an increase in cost. Subsequently, although your business revenue grows, you may not experience a growth in profitability – or scalability.

One of the best ways to make your business scalable is to apply the business strategy of network effect.

Say What!? What is Network Effect?

Network effect first came into being as early as 1908 when Theodore Vail, the first president of Bell Telephone, gained a telephone monopoly. It was later popularized in the tech industry by such giants as Robert Metcalfe of 3Com and Rod Beckstrom of ICANN.

Essentially, it’s a phenomenon whereby a product or service gains more additional value the more people use it.

Examples of today’s network effect include Airbnb, Google, and Facebook (although it’s arguable — and a matter of personal opinion — of the additional value of Facebook). Certainly, the internet, itself, is a good example.

When the internet was first conceived, there were few users. Those who were online derived value from its use. However, as more and more of us went online, the value of the internet to everyone online increased exponentially.

The Value of Network Effects for Small Business

Let’s face it, as a bootstrapped solopreneur in the service industry, you trade time for money. Your business model very likely looks like that of a lawyer, accountant, designer, or consultant. It requires you to be there — to be present — and put in time to generate revenue. You and your client exchange time and expertise for money. It’s that simple.

The problem with this model is that there are only so many hours in a day. Even at that, few service-based professionals are 100% billable. It doesn’t take long before your ability to generate revenue is capped.

Granted, you can hire other skilled professionals to grow your revenue capability. However, it’s merely a “rinse and repeat” of the same model with revenue capability capped as the number of billable hours is achieved for each person in your employ. Economies of scale are difficult, at best.

And, if you’re like many of the business owners I chat with, you really don’t want to be managing a gaggle of people. Thanks, but no thanks.

The application of network effect for the small business owner with minimal resources can create a huge advantage in your ability to scale. As more users are added, greater value is created by and for all users.

This dramatically reduces your individual work load and requirement to be ever-present. Plus, costs are easier to control and maintain making your product/service more affordable. This affordability factor attracts more users and the entire cycle repeats itself.

Additional users => more use => additional value created for all users => cost containment => greater affordability => further users.

Me, too?

Not every business can, nor should they, attempt to inject network effect into their business model. But, for those who can — and should seriously consider doing so — here are a few considerations as you begin the process.

1) Consider what type of product or service is currently being used by a high volume of people and considered valuable and incorporate that particular product or service into your business. An example might be a credit card.

2) Study the most valuable product or service that your business provides that currently engages the most users. Consider how you might leverage that product or service using network effect.

One of the most valuable services being generated by most service-based professionals today is content — good, quality content. In fact, although the internet is choking itself on an overabundance of content, the truth is that most of it is not good or helpful to the end user.

By leveraging your content to inform, educate, and spark conversations among readers, you begin to create greater value for everyone who consumes your content. The conversations and contributions made by other readers expands the knowledge and understanding of the topic, beyond your original contribution — as long as, of course, that quality (content and user) is upheld.

3) Focus on one target customer in one location and perfect the model…like McDonald’s did before becoming a franchise behemoth. Create your micro niche.

4) Set up conditions for other people to collaborate and connect and cause each other to grow. Consider how each new client (aka user) can be made more valuable to each and every client.

The Bottom Line

Henry Ford said, Coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together, is success.” By leveraging the increasing value of your product or service as the number and quality of users grows, you can more quickly scale your small business…with less work needing to be done by you!

Core Business Assessment


Brooke Billingsley

Vice President
Perception Strategies

Synnovatia is a strategic coaching firm that is detailed and knowledgeable about business. i have a small business that grew from $150K to $750K because of the goal setting and resources that Synnovatia provided. It saves me years of learning on my own.

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